March 29, 2013

Green Tomato Cake

Why in the world would I make a green tomato cake? When you belong to a CSA, one challenge is using up all the produce provided. Though not always successful, I really do make an effort to use it all up. So when I received green tomatoes in the fall right before I was heading out of town, I pureed them and froze them. I knew I had seen baked goods with green tomatoes before, so I figured this would work. Fast forward several months, I am cleaning out the last of the fall harvest from my freezer. One of the last items was the bag of green tomatoes. I searched for recipes and found several for spice cake with green tomatoes and gave one a go. The outcome was very good! I never told my husband the secret ingredient, and he never knew why the cake was so moist. If you look closely, a few small chunks of green are visible.

As for the frosting, cream cheese frosting pairs excellently, but honestly I would love to find a substitute. Cream cheese has some weird ingredients, and powdered sugar seems to give me an instant headache. If you have any ideas for another cake topping, please let me know. But alas, I had some cream cheese already in my fridge one day past its expiration date, so I felt obligated to use it up.

**If you're wondering how I can confess my cooking secrets on this blog and not have my husband find out, it's because he doesn't read the blog.  But before you judge and think he should support me by reading my work, he once remarked, "I don't need to read your blog, I live it."  I found this so hilarious because it's a parallel to one of the best lines in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, the movie, which he's only seen once because I forced him.  I agree!

Green Tomato Cake
adapted from Serious Eats

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups olive oil
1 cup sugar
1/2 c. maple syrup
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups pureed or finely chopped green tomatoes

cream cheese frosting or other frosting of choice

For the cake, adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly coat two 9-inch cake pans with butter. Line bottoms of cake pans with parchment paper rounds and coat with butter once again.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and nutmeg in medium bowl or on large sheet of parchment paper.

In large bowl, beat oil, maple syrup and sugar on medium speed until fully incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add tomatoes and beat just until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Decrease mixer speed to low and gradually add flour mixture to green tomato mixture. Mix just until combined, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl as necessary.

Divide batter equally between baking pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of cakes comes out clean, 45 to 60 minutes. Transfer cakes to cooling racks and cool in pans for 15 minutes. Invert cakes directly onto racks. Peel off and discard parchment lining and cool completely, about 90 minutes.

Once cool, frost cake.

March 28, 2013

Maple Glazed Popcorn

I discovered the most delicious popcorn recipe. It tastes like caramel corn and is delish. Just be careful to drizzle the topping evenly, otherwise some kernels will end up a little soggy. Unlike caramel corn, the topping does not harden, so it's best to eat it fresh.

Maple Glazed Popcorn

6 to 10 cups of popped popcorn
1 Tbsp. butter
1/3 c. maple syrup (I use grade B for maximum maple flavor)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Spread popped popcorn on a cookie sheet.

Melt butter in a saucepan and add maple syrup. Stir to combine, remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract. Drizzle over popcorn and toss, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat.

March 26, 2013

Vanilla Cardamom Chia Seed Pudding

In the fall, I visited my parents. My mom is a smoothie lover and has one every day for breakfast, and she graciously shared while I was there. She adds in all sorts of healthy ingredients, including chia seeds. I decided to buy some chia seeds after I returned home, but only after that did I start noticing recipes everywhere containing chia seeds. One of the most common ways to use them is to soak them in liquid (like almond milk) to make a pudding-like substance. When soaked, the seeds plump up a little and lose their crunch. Add some delicious flavorings, and you've got pudding.

This recipe for chia seed pudding uses vanilla, cardamom, and maple syrup for a delicious pudding. I ate it with honey-poached clementines for breakfast.

Vanilla Cardamom Chia Seed Pudding
adapted from What's Cooking Good Looking

1 1/2 cups almond milk
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 cup chia seeds (you can add a little more if you like the pudding to be thicker)

Make the pudding by placing all of the ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl and stir to combine everything. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight (or for a minimum of three hours).

The chia seed pudding will keep for several days in an air tight container in the fridge.

March 25, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

If you haven't already figured it out, my main motivation for keeping this blog is a selfish reason. It's a fairly easy way to record recipes I have tried and makes it so easy to find them later (recipe index or search is so much faster then sorting through a hodge podge of papers). I also like sharing recipes, so it's convenient to refer people to my blog for recipes.

But I do sometimes have something to say, and though probably not too many are listening, it's fun to think maybe someone will read what I have written. I have had so many food thoughts lately and have dreamed of writing poignant blogposts. But that's not happening. I haven't even been keeping up with posting so many recipes I've made recently that I don't want to lose track of. I try to accomplish the most important things each day, and sometimes it feels that I'm not successful with even that. But I do also try to unwind every day with activities that are purely for my enjoyment. Blogging would fall in that category. Hopefully I will get fairly caught up soon.

This delightful recipe was one I discovered today, made today, and am posting today! It's so good I couldn't wait to share it. This is sugar-free, rich, delicious, chocolately candy. Yes, you read that correctly. I was somewhat skeptical this formula could make something just as enticing as traditional candy, but I was so wrong. Try it and see if you don't like it, as these morsels are amazing.

Variations: Try mini-muffin liners and pans for a smaller version. I'm thinking almond butter would taste scrumptious in place of the peanut butter.

UPDATE 5/16/13: I tried these with almond butter and maple syrup instead of peanut butter and honey, and they were indeed scrumptious. Also I used a silicone muffin pan without liners, and the candies popped out very nicely.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge
adapted from Creating Naturally

1/2 cup coconut oil (slightly melted, but not hot)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup natural peanut butter or almond butter
1/4 cup mild-flavored raw honey or maple syrup
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Prepare a muffin pan with 10 muffin liners OR use a silicone muffin pan with no liners.

Add ingredients to a large bowl and whisk until blended and smooth. The heat from the coconut oil will help melt the peanut butter and honey. Pour the liquid fudge into the prepared muffin liners dividing evenly between them. There will be about a half inch of fudge in each muffin liner.

Place the muffin pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until the fudge has hardened. Remove fudge from muffin pan and store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.

March 14, 2013

Roasted Winter Vegetables

This is a super simple recipe, but sometimes that's what I need. Those basic, no-nonsense dishes are what I forget about and sometimes don't even know how to do without some help. These vegetables really hit the spot, for me and the little one.

Roasted Winter Vegetables

3-4 cups assorted vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, brussels sprouts
1 onion or red onion
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Cut vegetables into bite-size pieces. Place in a roasting pan. Drizzle with a little olive oil (a tablespoon or so) and a little salt and pepper; toss to coat. Put in oven and roast for 25-35 minutes until vegetables are tender and starting to brown.

March 13, 2013

Gingerbread Granola

Ginger is one of my favorite flavors. But the original recipe for this granola had way too much ginger even for me - the final product was too spicy hot. I've dialed back the ginger in this recipe for a wonderfully spiced granola. It's so simple and will last for at least a week in an airtight container.

Gingerbread Granola
adapted from My Whole Food Life

3 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup almonds roughly chopped
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup molasses
3 Tbsp applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, combine wet ingredients. Add wet to dry. Make sure all the dry ingredients are evenly coated. Place onto lined baking sheets and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes, stopping to shake the pans halfway through.

March 8, 2013

Whole Wheat Artisan Bread

While I love whole wheat bread with oil and sweetener, I wanted to find a more basic recipe, the flour-water-salt-yeast kind. I turned to Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which includes my favorite no-knead bread method. This bread gets the air bubbles just like the white bread version and a crunchy crust. I haven't made it yet with the seed mixture on top, but I will soon.

Of course, I'm still using my new grain mill to grind up fresh wheat flour, which definitely makes a difference. I also have been collecting free food-grade buckets from the bakery at the grocery store, bought some gamma seal lids, and my first 50-lb bag of wheat berries! I'm very excited.

73% Whole Wheat Artisan Bread
from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

yield: four 1-pound loafs (can be doubled or halved)

5 1/2 cups (1 pound, 9 ounces/720 grams) whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour
2 cups (10 ounces/270 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons (2 packets/.55 ounces/15 grams) granulated yeast
1 tablespoon (.55 ounces/15 grams) kosher salt
1/4 cup (1 3/8 ounces/35 grams) vital wheat gluten
4 cups (2 pounds/900 grams) lukewarm water (about 100 degrees F)
1-2 tablespoons seed mixture (sesame, flaxseed, caraway, raw sunflower, poppy, etc.) for sprinkling (optional)

To make the dough:
Whisk together flours, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten in a 5-quart bowl or lidded plastic food container (not airtight). Add water, all at once, and mix without kneading using a wooden spoon, 14-cup food processor, or heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix until everything is evenly moist with no dry patches. The dough will be shaggy, wet, and loose.

Cover with lid (not airtight) or plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until top of dough flattens, about 2 hours. If desired, let rise overnight. Refrigerate dough (lidded or wrapped in plastic) and use over next 14 days. Note that fully refrigerated dough is less sticky and easier to work with. Refrain from punching dough down.

To bake:
Prepare a pizza peel (or just a piece of parchment paper) by sprinkling liberally with cornmeal or lining with parchment. Dust the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit size) piece of dough.

With lightly floured hands, gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating a quarter-turn as you form a ball. The bottom may appear uneven but will flatten out during resting and baking. The final shape should be smooth and cohesive. If you prefer a oval-shape, elongate the dough with your hands and taper the ends by rolling them between your palms and pinching. The entire shaping process should only take 20-40 seconds, any longer and your loaf could be dense.

Allow shaped loaf to rest for 90 minutes (40 minutes if you're using fresh, unrefrigerated dough). 30 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water for steam on any other rack that won't interfere with the rising bread.

Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top of loaf with water. Sprinkle with seed mixture (if desired). Slash the loaf with 1/4-inch deep parallel cuts across the top using a serrated knife.

With a quick forward-jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto preheated baking stone (or just place the parchment paper and bread both on top of the stone). Quickly but carefully pour about 1 cup hot water from the tap into broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is richly browned and firm to the touch. Allow bread to cool completely on a wire rack for best flavor, texture, and slicing. Crust will firm up when cooled.

March 3, 2013

Lemon Parmesan Risotto

This is a simple recipe, but the kind you can make over and over and not get tired of. A basic risotto flavored with lemon and Parmesan (I always have those on hand) is an excellent side dish for so many things. Add a simply prepared chicken breast and green salad, and you've got a restaurant meal.

Lemon and Parmesan Risotto

adapted from Gratinee Blog

2 Tbsp. butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
5 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups arborio rice
3 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. butter, extra
salt and black pepper

Place the stock in a separate saucepan and bring to a slow simmer. Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter, oil, and onions; cook for 6-8 minutes or until soft and golden. Add the rice and lemon rind to the onion mixture and stir for 2 minutes, or until the rice is translucent.

Add the hot stock 1 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until each cup of stock is absorbed and the rice is al dente. This should take 25-30 minutes. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp. of butter and Parmesan cheese. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.